On the Catwalk

A truly international man, South African Kevin Oakes lives and works in Germany as a producer of fashion shows. His job takes him all over the world to such places as Paris, Milan, Istanbul, Las Vegas, Budapest, Morocco and Cuba. Heinrich Feuerbach caught up with him in Berlin and discovered some fascinating things about the fashion industry.

How did you become a fashion show producer?
Actually, they call me a choreographer but I' m basically a show producer. I studied theatre, had my own theatre company and worked as a model. Then someone asked me if I wanted to produce a fashion show and I said, why not? And suddenly I got more and more work, so I started my own company, the Kevin Oakes Company. I' ve produced
fashion shows all over Europe for many different designers and companies.

Do you specialize in any particular type of show?

No, I do normal fashion shows, I do avant-garde, I do hair, big diamond shows for De Beers. I do shows for industry, shows of motorcars, and I direct business theatre and also direct and choreograph musicals.

You come from South Africa. Can you tell me something about the fashion scene there?

I' ve never worked in South Africa. I only visit my family there once a year. Fashion has a different angle there. The weather is very hot, so the people do not spend so much money on clothes. In the summer you need only shorts, sandals and a T-shirt... But they spend a lot of money on swimwear.

How do you like working in Europe?

It' s very central to work in Europe. It' s easy to work in many different countries and cities - Munich, Budapest... And I' m starting to open more contacts to the United States. Germany actually has the biggest market for clothing in Europe. That' s why it is my base.

So Paris is no longer the fashion capital?

The 'fashion' doesn' t matter - the show is what I do. Working for fashion designers doesn' t bring you much money, just prestige. As a producer, you can' t live off these shows. Germany has many, many shows. Dusseldorf has the biggest fashion fair in the world, it' s much bigger than in Paris.

So you' re happy in Germany?

Sure, I' m very happy here. I' ve worked with most of the biggest designers there are - whether it be Paco Rabanne or Hungaro, I' ve had the pleasure of working with many, many good people. I' ve worked with a lot of supermodels. It' s a very varied job. Sometimes there are big glamour shows, big business shows, so you have to be very flexible.

Do you have any connections with the fashion scene in Poland?

Not really, but I do work with some Polish models and I know some agencies in Warsaw.

What was your biggest show?

Well, the biggest show I ever did was the" Größe Ku" in Berlin, on the Kurfrstendamm. It was one kilometre long and involved 800 models. I did it in 1997. I choreographed the whole show. It was a challenge to do it, to co-ordinate so many models. I did another in Milan, with 9,000 people. I' ve done shows with fifty or a hundred or 200 models and I' ve done shows with four models.

Is English the main language of the fashion scene or is it more French?

It' s regional. In Paris it' s mainly French, in Italy it' s more Italian. In New York and London it' s English. But overall, it' s more English.

How do you think fashion will change in the near future?

It' s very interesting, because the fabrics, the materials are changing. We' ll be using more synthetic fabrics that breathe, that are water-repellent. I think fashion will become more and more in tune with the future and not try to hang on to fabrics like cotton and wool. Also we' ll see less discrepancy between the sexes in fashion.

So clothes will become more functional?

Yes, but also more showy. If you look at sports shoes now, they' re very expensive fashion articles, but used to be just something to run in. I would say aesthetic functionality will be it.

And what do you prefer, clothes that are more functional or clothes which look good?

I like clothes that fit your personality. So, for myself, it depends on how I' m feeling. If I feel more functional, I want more functional clothes. If I' m feeling flamboyant... and so on. I like clothes which feel good on the skin, which are comfortable, and when you look at yourself in the mirror, it' s you that is important. The clothes are there to make you look and feel good. And not to be a
fashion slave.

But many of the fashions we see on the catwalk are anything but functional, and who but a slave to fashion could possibly wear them?

The catwalk shows an image and an idea. The designers sell the line differently in the shop. The catwalk is there to give you an idea of what their fantasy and what their design is. Most of the catwalk stuff is styled and made in a way that you wouldn' t normally sell in a shop or make money from.